COVID-19 Updates for YWCA Team

Updated 3.45pm, Wednesday 1 July 2020

Update from Wednesday 1 July 2020

Dear team,

As we enter a new financial year this week, we also enter into our first FY21 90-day budget period.

As you are aware, we are implementing our recovery C-19 Management Action Plan (C19 MAP). A key principle of the C-19 MAP is our business needing to remain nimble and that’s why 90-day budgets are necessary. This will enable the Executive Team and budget holders to be able to review income and expenditure and respond appropriately to the evolving C-19 landscape on a 90-day basis.

As we move through implementation of C-19 MAP Phase 1 we have highlighted three updates below – Song, New Ways of Working and Return to Work:

Song Businesses

I’m pleased to announce that Song will have a staged reopening with reduced capacity as of Monday 3 August 2020. This decision has been made following continued monitoring of the market, our competitors, and the easing of C-19 restrictions in NSW. The staged reopening will include Song Hotel Sydney, with the Song Kitchen opening initially to offer breakfast for hotel guests only.  Song Hotel Redfern will remain temporarily closed for bookings.

This is a positive first step forward in the returning of the Song operations, however I must emphasise that at this stage the hotel will be operating at a reduced capacity with reduced staffing. In Song Sydney we will be operating the 96 en-suite rooms only with a forecast occupancy of 25%.

The Song and People & Culture teams will ensure the appropriate Return to Work practices are in place prior to reopening to keep our team members and our customers safe.

New Ways of Work Committee

Further to my C19 update two weeks ago, many of you will have seen on the National Portal that we are now asking for team members to get involved with the New Ways of Work Committee. This committee will develop creative solutions on how our organisation can reimagine the way we work, taking learnings and insights from how we have had to adapt and change during C19. This is an opportunity to consider how things like office locations, technology, communication channels, meeting structures and networks can work best for our teams.

To get involved with the committee, click here for the Expression of Interest. If you have any questions, please get in touch with Sarah Hill ([email protected]).

Return to Work update

While many of our locations have already started returning to work from the office (hello Darwin!), it will take longer for other teams to return to their offices. Sydney may not return until after September as there are ongoing building works scheduled, and our Victorian team members will all be continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future to reduce risks as COVID-19 case numbers rise in their state.

The important thing to remember is that as we plan our RTW approaches around the country, that it must be suitable for your role, your location, and your individual circumstances. I remind you to review the RTW guidance on National Portal and to work with your local RTW representative when planning your return to work.

And whilst I’m thankful that we still have no positive cases of COVID-19 in our team members, clients or tenants, we must stay vigilant. The current ‘second wave’ in Victoria reminds us all that we must continue to practice good hygiene practices and to maintain physical distancing where possible and appropriate.

Please stay safe and I am confident we will navigate this pandemic together and emerge stronger.

Take care,
Michelle.


Update from Friday 19 June 2020

Dear team,

As Australia begins moving through the stages of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it is becoming increasingly clear that the world we live in won’t be the same as it once was. A report from Deloitte Access Economics expects that full economic recovery in Australia won’t begin until late 2021, with many organisations predicted to be markedly different, including YWCA,  post COVID-19.

To ensure that YWCA is well-positioned for a post COVID-19 future, the Executive Team have developed and are implementing a C-19 Management Action Plan (MAP) to ensure that we are nimble and considered in our recovery. The C-19 MAP is designed to be dynamic and evolving so that we can better respond to circumstances as they change. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ situation.

There is a three-stage recovery approach to our C-19 MAP:

  • Phase 1: Business Continuity Plans – our rapid response to ensure we can continue to deliver all our services across the business, as much as possible.
  • Phase 2: Re-imagining for the Future – what will our business look like post COVID-19 compared to pre COVID-19? It’s important during this phase that we take time to reflect, focus on our purpose and have long term strategic impact thinking.
  • Phase 3: Execution of our re-imagined future – implementing plans and facilitating continuous improvements.

Phase 1 is where we have been since the initial stages of this pandemic. Your flexibility, innovation and adaptability have all played a part in Phase 1 as we quickly adjusted our service delivery and work models to respond to the changing landscape.  The Executive Team have also been deeply engaged in business continuity planning during this phase, including actions like monitoring our cash flows, holding regular C-19 planning sessions, and preparing business risk assessments.

The Return to Work actions being led by the People & Culture Team is also part of Phase 1 planning. If you haven’t already, you will soon hear from your team or location representative who will begin a consultation process on your team or location’s Return to Work plan. We need your input to make sure that the Return to Work plan is appropriate and considers individual circumstances. A copy of our plan and the Return to Work Assessment Form is available on the front page of our National Portal.

We are now in the beginning stages of Phase 2 – Re-imagining for the Future. The way our society works, how it delivers and we receive services, and the way we generally go about our daily lives has changed. As such, we need to evaluate the WAY we work and THE work we do to ensure that our organisation is best positioned to serve our communities well into the future. There is no easy answer to this and our responses must, and will, be measured and considered, based on careful analysis of the market, recovery times and our own needs.

Sarah Hill, our Young Women’s Development Manager, is leading an initiative inviting input across the organisation to reflect and gather insights on the ways we have adapted or changed our ways of working during COVID-19. We can all learn from each other, so we are looking to this team to be creative, collaborative and provide feedback and solutions on how we can re-imagine the way YWCA works.

I’d like to thank you once again for your commitment and dedication. The past few months have been a time of great change for us, for our clients and tenants, and for society more broadly.

There will be more change to come, but I know that we can get through it together.

Take care,
Michelle


Update from Friday 22 May 2020

Dear team, 

I hope you’re keeping well as we hold the course with our physical distancing measures. And I’d like to thank you all again for your continued dedication and hard work during this time.  

As lockdown measures begin to lift around the country, our People & Culture team are working with senior managers to plan and prepare for our eventual return to normal working environments. This will be an ongoing process and will look different depending on the nature of your role, and where you are based.  

Rest assured, your safety and wellbeing, and that of our clients, tenants and customers will always be our top priority.  

At the bottom of this email, I share some information from our Housing team about the measures they’ve taken to ensure the wellbeing of our tenants during COVID-19. The steps they’ve put in place have been critical in ensuring that those most vulnerable are supported during this crisis. 

This is particularly important given yesterday’s release of YWCA National Housing’s research report – Women’s Housing Needs in Regional Australia. This is a critical piece of work that highlights housing needs for many in the community, and there will be some significant advocacy work on this over coming weeks and months. 

We are also holding a CEO Express Broadcast on 2 June, the 140th anniversary of the YWCA movement in Australia! The broadcast will begin from 11.30am AEST. A calendar invitation will soon be sent out, but please note this access link: https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_NzIyOGUxZWUtZjgxMy00MDE3LTg3NGUtOTM4NjUzYjFiYjRl%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%2219f8b65e-ff1a-4016-87bc-d17a9252176f%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%221428c91a-99c2-4469-9fb5-67a3cb8913aa%22%2c%22IsBroadcastMeeting%22%3atrue%7d  

Finally, many of you may have heard that Jon Ackary, our General Manager of Song Businesses was in a serious bicycle accident last week. He is doing well, though recovery will take some time. In his absence, Razi Mohammed will be stepping up to manage day-to-day operations of Song, which in this time includes supporting our valued Song team during the temporary close-down. We wish Jon all the best in his recovery.  

Take care, 

Michelle 

What our Housing services are doing in response to COVID-19  

Many of the properties owned and managed by YWCA Housing are rooming houses, where tenants may have a private bedroom and ensuite bathroom but share common areas including kitchens and living rooms. With this setup, the first priority for our Housing team was to manage the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the common areas of rooming houses. To do this, they have: 

  • Increased cleaning of common surfaces including door handles and kitchen benches 
  • Installed Department of Health Human Services (DHHS) health and hygiene notices in every house, including hand washing, notification procedures if unwell or experiencing symptoms 
  • Placed hospital grade disinfectant in each kitchen until supplies of hand sanitiser were restored, with the installation of hand sanitiser dispensers in every rooming house at the front door and in each kitchen about to commence 
  • Changed the House Rules in line with DHHS rules and regulations around visitors to homes 
  • Allocated a number of standalone units in both Melbourne and Toowoomba to house any residents in rooming houses who test positive to COVID-19, to minimise the risk of infecting others 

They have increased communication with and support of tenants during this time of social isolation, including: 

  • Sending key information and resources including contact lists for when they are feeling unwell 
  • Frequently sending SMS communication to tenants to ensure that everyone can receive key messages 
  • Creating a regular tenant newsletter and closed Facebook group to help facilitate tenant engagement and connection (talk to [email protected] about closed Facebook groups!) 
  • Supporting those who have been self-isolating with supplies as needed 

Now mostly working remotely, the Housing team were meeting through Teams every morning and afternoon (now every afternoon) to check on tenant wellbeing and property status. Housing Officers are also conducting phone interviews with new tenants by phone where possible, and where face to face meetings are required, have the appropriate personal protective equipment and cleaning measures in place.  

These measures have helped to ensure that our Housing properties have continued to be free of positive cases of COVID-19, ensuring the safety and ongoing wellbeing of our tenants. Well done Housing team!  


Update from Monday 11 May 2020

Dear team, 

Some of you have asked in recent weeks how the Executive Team and the Board have been working together to steer the organisation through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This week we published a piece in Women’s Agenda featuring our Company Secretary Kate O’Donohue speaking about the importance of good governance during a crisis. There are a few paragraphs that I’d like to share: 

The YWCA moved to identify the health risks for staff and put in place procedures for those on the frontline – including the necessary social distancing and cleaning requirements. They then moved on to grappling with the economic consequences. 

And it’s now, that the risk frameworks and management mechanisms Kate’s been working on come to life. All directors need to get familiar with what’s involved. 

The ability to identify risks and opportunities and have your organisation prepared to manage or take advantage of these is crucial to long term sustainability.    

Asked what she thinks has changed for governance professionally during this pandemic – and what may continue to change in the future, Kate says agility is essential. 

“We need to be aware of being agile,” she says. “We saw COVID hit, there was a lot of floating going on, then the webinars starting, the Zoom calls. I think it’s great to see the agility of some of our professional advisers who are providing guidance during this period. 

This is just a snapshot of the many hours of work that has gone into ensuring that YWCA is prepared for COVID-19 impacts both now and in the future. It also demonstrates the expertise, innovation and integrity with which we have all approached this task and the way that all YWCA team members approach the important work that we do.  

One area of significant change has been to our Song operations, and this continues with news that our Mirvac Song Café and Catering partnership will not extend beyond June this year when our contract ends. Whilst this is sad news, we fully understand that our partners also need to implement business changes in these times.  Over the past four years, we’ve built a solid catering venture supporting Mirvac in Sydney’s CBD and I would like to thank the team for all their hard work in this venture. 

Living our values and supporting our staff remains a priority. As such, YWCA has made the decision to ensure that all our employees, including those holding temporary visas, have access to some financial assistance at this time. I’m proud to announce that we will be offering a separate ex-gratia payment to eligible temporary visa holders. We hope that this financial support will provide some relief at this time and assist our valued team members to remain connected to us. 

And on the topic of being connected, many of you will already be aware of the Australian Government’s COVIDSafe app that was recently launched to assist with contact tracing efforts to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The app aims to speed up the process of contacting people exposed to coronavirus and help contain outbreaks. Participation with the app is completely voluntary. You can find out more information about the app here: bit.ly/2YalxvE  

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses and changes happen less rapidly, we will be moving these email updates to fortnightly. If there’s any significant announcements that need to be made, we will ensure they are sent out immediately outside of this email schedule. 

Importantly, in case you missed the profile we shared earlier in EqualitY Express, I’d like to share a snippet below from our Homelessness Services in Sydney, about the way they continue to navigate the COVID-19 crisis as an essential service.  

On a slightly different note I wanted to give you an update on our Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCAS) tender. As you may know YWCA Australia has proudly provided the WDVCAS in the Shoalhaven region for many years. Last Friday, we became aware that the WDVCAS tender has been announced and that our tender submission was not considered due to a technical administrative anomaly. We are working with the relevant parties on potential next steps and we will keep you updated on our progress. 

A continued thanks to everyone for living our values, what we do and how we do it is important – keep up the great work.  

Take care, 
Michelle.

What Homelessness Services in Metro Sydney are doing in response to COVID-19  

As an essential service, Homelessness Services had to quickly innovate and adapt in order to continue to provide comprehensive support to our clients whilst also ensuring the safety and wellbeing of both our staff and clients during the COVID-19 crisis. This includes measures such as: 

  • Remote work, providing support to clients over the phone or via tools such as FaceTime or Zoom where possible and appropriate. 
  • Putting in measures including screening questions, meeting clients in open spaces to observe physical distancing measures and limiting length of time spent in face-to-face contact. 
  • Operating with skeleton staff at the Sydney office to see clients face-to-face when required and safe to do so, with appropriate hygiene measures. This is also done on a roster system to limit contact with others.  
  • Regular phone calls to clients experiencing social isolation to provide emotional support and advice. 
  • Regular catchups on Microsoft Teams to remain connected, supported and work collaboratively. 

These measures have helped to keep staff and clients safe and healthy, ensuring that the team can continue to provide essential supports to clients experiencing hardship as a result of reduced access to essential items, job loss and social isolation. This has included: 

  • Food vouchers and hampers 
  • Mobile phones and data 
  • Brokerage assistance for rent arrears, removals and emergency relief 
  • Negotiations for rent reductions 
  • Assistance with fares to return to family members during this time, including New Zealand citizens who have been unable to access social supports in Australia 

Homelessness Services have now supported over 760 individuals to date in this financial year alone. Well done to our team Amanda, Joe, Tegan, Nicole, Sandy, Olivia, Jacqueline, Christia, Rebecca, Nicky and our Team Leaders Virginia and Christie.  


Update from Friday 1 May 2020

Dear team,

I am happy to report YWCA continues to have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 and by many accounts, Australia is starting to take the first steps out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions are slowly being relaxed in different states, and all signs and statistics point to Australia being well on the way to flattening the curve. To keep this trend going, we will continue our COVID-19 practices we have implemented to date. 

I want to thank you all for your commitment to these practices. Our joint swift response to COVID-19 has ensured that our clients and communities have continued to receive the support they need. At the bottom of this email, I’ll share some information about how services in Northern NSW have adapted the way they deliver services to their local communities.

Our Song Hotels are now temporarily closed for bookings and we continue to look for opportunities and market changes to re-open at the appropriate time.

As we all know, the economy will take longer to recover, and we will continue to plan to ensure our long- term financial stability. Thank you to all JobKeeper-eligible employees who submitted their nomination forms last week. 100% of eligible employees returned their forms – a clear sign that we are all in this together!

Your efforts and continued support will help us alleviate some of the financial pressures we are experiencing as an organisation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you again. Stay well, and keep up the good work.

Take care,
Michelle

What Northern NSW programs are doing in response to COVID-19

New Regional Manager of Northern NSW Kayeleen Brown started her role on the very day that the team began work on transitioning their service delivery model in response to COVID-19. This includes family support and early intervention programs for the local Bundjalung community, who face particular challenges with access to technologies.

A survey conducted with program clients showed that some of these challenges included:

  • Limited access to devices within households
  • Barriers to participating in online platforms
  • Lack of access to wifi and mobile phone data

In response, it was recognised that a closed Facebook group for program participants was the most effective way of continuing to deliver support to the community. This was chosen because many pre-paid mobile plans offer free access to Facebook without using the data allowance, which made it a lot more accessible for clients.

Three different closed Facebook groups have now been established for different groups of program participants and program workers are now delivering program content through the Facebook group using photos, videos, and resources. These groups are monitored daily, and have a strict protocol around privacy, content sharing, and comment moderation. Initial feedback from participants is positive, particularly in maintaining connection to YWCA programs and feeling supported by YWCA staff during isolation.

The Communications team is working with Northern NSW and other regions now to look at how closed Facebook groups can be extended to other regions to support local communities, while still supporting our national voice and mission. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact [email protected].


Update from Thursday 23 April 2020

Dear team,

As I mentioned last week, JobKeeper applications opened on the 20th of April and we are completing the application process.

Many of you will have received an email and SMS communication on Monday this week about your eligibility for the JobKeeper payment. I understand that there are some concerns and confusion about what this means, so we are dedicating this week’s update to answering some of the questions you might have. It is important that if you received the email and SMS communication, you complete the ATO form and return to People & Culture by the end of today.

I must reiterate that we, like all other employers around the country, are new to the JobKeeper scheme. Our Finance and People & Culture teams are working to get guidelines and our systems set up to administer this payment. As we receive more information, we will let you know. For now, this is what we understand JobKeeper will mean for YWCA and for you.

  1. What is the JobKeeper payment and what does it do?

The JobKeeper payment is designed to be a wage subsidy for employersas a reimbursement for wages paid to employees commencing from 30 March and continuing for 13 fortnights. It is designed to support businesses significantly affected by COVID-19 to help keep more Australians in jobs. Eligible employers will be reimbursed a fixed amount of $1,500 per fortnight for each eligible employee.

For YWCA, the JobKeeper payment will provide the opportunity to alleviate some of the financial pressures in areas of our organisation that have been directly and indirectly impacted by COVID-19. It will help us navigate the COVID-19 crisis while retaining our valued team members and managing our financial stability.

  1. I received an email from YWCA about my eligibility for JobKeeper. What do I need to do?

Follow the instructions in the email to download and complete the employee nomination form, then send it on to the People & Culture team at [email protected] before the end of today. By doing this, you help us to claim the JobKeeper payment for you as an eligible employee and will support YWCA during the COVID-19 crisis.

  1. I didn’t receive an email, does that mean I am not eligible for JobKeeper?

If you haven’t received an email or SMS from YWCA Australia, it means you do not meet the Government’s criteria for the JobKeeper payment. This simply means that we cannot claim the JobKeeper payment for you as you are not an eligible employee. There currently no action required from you.

  1. My role is funded through a government/philanthropic grant – am I still eligible for JobKeeper?

Yes, you are eligible. The JobKeeper scheme doesn’t consider how your role is funded. To judge organisational eligibility, the ATO simply looks at the organisation’s revenue and whether it has declined as a result of COVID-19. Employee eligibility is based on length of tenure and the nature of your contract.

As YWCA’s revenue has dropped overall as a result of COVID-19, due largely to the decline in the travel and hospitality industries and resulting decline in Song profits, we are an eligible organisation.

  1. As an eligible employee, how and when will I receive the JobKeeper payment?

The JobKeeper payment is designed to be a wage subsidy paid to the employer. YWCA will administer the JobKeeper payment through our usual pay cycles, starting 29 April 2019.

  1. As an eligible employee, what happens if I currently earn less than $1,500 a fortnight?

If you currently earn less than $1,500 a fortnight, you will receive the full $1,500 wage subsidy (less tax) in your next pay cycle. Your payslip will show a top up amount to the full $1,500. You will receive this top up payment for this fortnight’s pay and the previous fortnight’s pay as the JobKeeper payments are effective from 30 March 2020.

This increase in your pay does not automatically mean that you will need to work more hours, unless agreed with your manager.

  1. I’m an eligible employee and my role hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19, what happens if I currently earn over $1,500 a fortnight?

If you currently earn over $1,500 a fortnight, you will not see any changes in the amount you are currently paid in each pay cycle and your payslip will not look any different.

There is currently no expectation that you will need to reduce your working hours to the equivalent of $1,500 a fortnight.

  1. I’m an eligible employee and my role has been impacted by COVID-19 (Song Employees)
  • I have been temporarily stood down, what happens if I currently earn over $1,500 a fortnight?

Casual employee

If you have been impacted by Song’s temporary close-down and are not working, you will receive the full $1,500 wage subsidy (less tax) in your next pay cycle. Your payslip will show the full $1,500. You will receive payment for this fortnight’s pay and the previous fortnight’s pay as the JobKeeper payments are effective from 30 March 2020.

Permanent full-time or part-time employee

If you have been impacted by Song’s temporary close-down and are not working after the notice period ends on 30 April 2020, you will receive your normal wage in notice period. After the notice period has ended, you will receive the full $1,500 wage subsidy (less tax). Your payslip will show a top up amount to the full $1,500.

  • I have been temporarily stood down, what happens if I currently earn under $1,500 a fortnight?

If you currently earn less than $1,500 a fortnight, you will receive the full $1,500 wage subsidy (less tax). Your payslip will show a top up amount to the full $1,500. You will receive this top up payment for this fortnight’s pay and the previous fortnight’s pay as the JobKeeper payments are effective from 30 March 2020.

  1. As an eligible employee, will I be able to continue to salary sacrifice?

For employees who currently earn over $1,500 a fortnight, there will be no changes to your ability to salary sacrifice.

For employees who currently earn less than $1,500 a fortnight, you will still be able to salary sacrifice on your usual pay and may be able to salary sacrifice your top up payment. We are still trying to find out more about this and will be in touch with relevant employees once we have more information.

  1. As an eligible employee, how will my superannuation be calculated and paid?

Superannuation will be calculated on your normal pay.

This means that superannuation will not be paid on the top up payments for employees who normally earn less than $1,500, and those employees who are currently not working because of the temporary Song stand-down but will receive the JobKeeper subsidy.

For employees who earn over $1,500 a fortnight and are still working, there will be no changes to your superannuation contributions.

  1. What happens after the six months of JobKeeper payment runs out?

Our FY20-21 Business Plan is being developed which will includes JobKeeper payments for a six month period only. We will await any Federal and State Government announcements of further stimulus or funding packages and apply where relevant. It is important that we continue to be nimble and flexible in all that we do and the Executive Team continues to proactively plan and adjust to the evolving COVID-19 situation.

I hope this Q&A has alleviated some of the questions you may have had about the JobKeeper payment. If you have questions that I have not yet answered, please send them to [email protected]. We will also update our COVID-19 FAQs to include a section specifically on the JobKeeper payment.

I thank all eligible employees who have already completed and returned their nomination forms – if you haven’t yet, please do so before 5pm today. Your support is very much appreciated.

I hope you are all continuing to look after yourself and thank you for your ongoing commitment as we move forward.

Take care,
Michelle.


Update from Friday 17 April 2020

Dear team,

This will just be a short update, as not much has changed since my previous message. Thank you again for your commitment and support of each other as we navigate COVID-19. I would also like to say thank-you for the kind notes of support from team members around the country, you are right we are in this together.

We have continued working towards our eligibility for the Federal Government’s JobKeeper payment. We will be submitting our application to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) on 20 April 2020. The JobKeeper Payment is a scheme designed to support businesses significantly affected by the coronavirus to help keep more Australians in jobs.  For YWCA this will provide the opportunity to alleviate some of the financial pressures in areas of our organisation that have been directly and indirectly impacted by COVID-19.

Further information regarding JobKeeper will be made available to you and your managers next week. For more information about the JobKeeper payment, you can visit the ATO website.

Take care, and I hope you have a good weekend,

Michelle.

P.S. If you have any questions about our response to COVID-19, please visit the National Portal or send them through to [email protected] or [email protected] and we will address them in future communications.


Update from Thursday 9 April 2020

Dear team,

Thank you for joining me last week for Friday’s CEO Express broadcast.

Firstly, I am so proud of our team and how you have been responding to this situation. Seeing all of you support each other during this time is inspirational. We are all working towards bringing the pieces of the puzzle together that will ensure our ability to sustain the movement and deliver our vital housing programs and services and I am truly honoured to see us living and breathing our values as an organisation.

Following the broadcast, I thought it would be useful to follow-up with an email addressing some of the questions we received from the wider team before, during and after the broadcast.

With all of the varying government stimulus announcements, what is the YWCA eligible for, and how will it then actually be passed on to the business/employees?

YWCA is applying for all the stimulus packages that we are eligible for as an organisation such as the JobKeeper payment and the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure. As JobKeeper legislation was only formalised yesterday (Wednesday, 8 April) we must now wait for the ATO to advise us of our eligibility. We hope this happens ASAP.

At this stage, we understand that you as an individual don’t need to do anything to claim these subsidies as YWCA will manage the whole process. However, as all of these packages have only recently been announced, there are a lot of details to iron out. We will keep you updated if anything changes.

With the recent announcement around the temporary closure of Song operations, what options are being considered to support continuing employment and ensure the organisation is in the best possible place on the other side of this? 

As I mentioned above, we will be applying or have already applied for government stimulus packages to help us support continuing employment for our employees. The main thing to note is that Song staff still remain YWCA employees. We look forward to welcoming all our Song staff back when we are able to reopen those parts of our Song operations.

What are your key priorities in the current situation?

Our three key priorities are staff wellbeing, client and customer wellbeing and financial stability. All decisions made by the Executive Team during this time are focused on these three key priorities and finding the right balance between them.

It is difficult to anticipate anything currently, but how is the organisation thinking about the outlook and strategy longer term?   

The Executive Team are doing business continuity planning not only for the next few months, but also for next financial year and well into the future. This includes:

  • Monitoring our cashflows weekly to ensure we are able to support our business. To assist us, if there are unfunded non-essential activities, we are asking everyone to please re-consider the timing.
  • Holding COVID-19 planning sessions twice a week, focusing on the changing landscape of Federal and State Government announcements and our client needs.
  • Preparing business risk assessments and implementing business continuity plans by business unit.

There will be impacts on our organisation. The decision we had to make about the temporary closure of parts of Song operations is evidence of that. These decisions are not made easily. The Executive Team spend many hours modelling different scenarios in order to make the most balanced decision for our organisation.

What are the key factors that support the organisation in getting through this in the immediate future? 

Our team and our organisational values guide us and are the key to our success. YWCA would not be where it is today without the individual efforts of each and every single one of you. As long as our team are supporting each other through this crisis and doing their best work in supporting our clients and customers, we will get through this together.

We need to continue to embrace our values as we navigate through this uncertainty. We may see our business further impacted if this situation prolongs, but I assure you that our people will always be at the heart of our decisions.

How will you be continuing to communicate throughout the coming months?

In addition to the regular weekly email update that I am sending out, each Executive Team member is taking responsibility for cascading messages to their staff and managing client communications. Leaders within the organisation are also receiving special communications to aid in supporting their staff about COVID-19 measures. We are also looking to increase the frequency of the CEO Express broadcast from once every two months to once a month or more frequently if we have important information to share.

Don’t forget as well – we have our COVID-19 page on National Portal and FAQs document that is regularly updated as government regulations change, as well as our standard monthly staff newsletter EqualitY Express.

How are you and the Executive looking after each other – outside crisis response and risk management modes?  How can we all support you?  What part can we all play in getting through this?

The Executive team are supportive of each other, we are making some time for ourselves and staying connected with colleagues and importantly with friends and family.  Please make sure you also take time for you. For me personally, I have had to learn how to cook 😊.

I urge all of you to take the time to reach out to your colleagues. We need connections with other people, now more than ever. Don’t let physical distancing become social distancing.

Are there any examples you can share about the work people are now doing in different ways?  It would be really good to hear what changes in operations have been put in place and to celebrate how quickly and willingly we’ve all adapted to this new normal.

Our Service Delivery teams have all adjusted their programs to ensure that they can continue client care, and have implemented best practice infection control protocols. On Friday’s broadcast, Nicole Hogan our Regional Manager in Southern NSW shared some information with us about how her team has changed the way they deliver services.

Our Housing team continue to support our tenants across our country and place women into any vacancies. They already have plans in place to support tenants in our rooming houses should they contract COVID-19. I also want to give a special shout-out to Fiona Goldrick, our ICT Manager, who has ensured that YWCA has been able to transition to working from home.

The spirit of collaboration and support is strong throughout the organisation, and we’ll dedicate a future COVID-19 communications piece to examples of how our different teams have changed the way they deliver essential services.

Finally, I truly believe we will emerge from this as a strong united team ready for the next 140 years of success. The Y women who came before us navigated many periods of uncertainty and we will do the same.

Stay safe and look after your loved ones. It is an honour to be leading you through this period and having you by my side.

Take care,
Michelle.

P.S. If you have any additional questions that I haven’t answered – please post them on the National Portal or alternatively, you can send them through to [email protected] or [email protected] and we will address them in future communications!


Update from Thursday 26 March 2020

Dear team,

I know we are all receiving a lot of information on COVID-19 and I feel it is important I keep you updated on the happenings at the Y.  I want to assure you that the Executive Team are meeting multiple times a week to review the latest government measures, adapt our business to best meet the current needs and to plan ahead.

I am committed to giving you regular updates about changes we are making in response to COVID-19. There will be more updates to come.

We have introduced a new policy today and provided additional information. These include:

  • Formalisation of our COVID-19 Paid Special Leave Policy
  • Updates to the Frequently Asked Questions document
  • Ongoing promotion of healthy work from home practices and the importance of maintaining good mental health

All these dot points are covered in more detail below, so please scroll down for more information

COVID-19 Paid Special Leave Policy

To ease some of the concerns and pressures that you may be facing, we have introduced our COVID-19 Paid Special Leave Policy. Here’s the key takeaway from the policy for you:

There will be Paid Special Leave of up to 10 days available to all employees (pro-rata for part-timers and based on a projected two week roster for casuals) who are unable to work because they are confirmed/suspected of having COVID-19 or are self-isolating due to COVID-19. This Paid Special Leave can be accessed after existing Personal and Annual Leave have been used up.

For more information on eligibility, read the full policy on National Portal and if you have any further questions please contact People & Culture.

Updates to the Frequently Asked Questions document

This includes updated travel advice from the Federal Government including a ban on international travel and restrictions on domestic travel in some states which include mandatory self-isolation periods. This is a reminder that YWCA has already stopped all work-related domestic and international travel. We understand that there may be extenuating circumstances (e.g. compassionate travel to be with family), so please talk to your Director and People & Culture if this is the case. 

Workplace Health and Safety

We’ve recently provided some good tips on WFH Life on our National Portal here.

It is important to take care of yourself – both physically and mentally. It is good to stay socially connected and I know there are some of our teams who are doing virtual morning coffees or Friday afternoon drinks over Microsoft Teams.

Please remember you can always reach out to our EAP on 1300 361 008 for support during this time. They are there to help.

Finally…

I wanted to thank each and every one of you for the way in which you’re handling this pandemic. I know that each of our business areas have had to make quick adjustments to the way they run in order to respond to this crisis, and I am proud of our adaptability and innovation.

Take care,
Michelle
CEO, YWCA Australia

P.S. If you haven’t seen it yet – we are also continuing our important advocacy work on behalf of all women, young women and girls! This piece ran in all major metro news outlets across all states on Tuesday this week in response to the announcement of the Government’s second stimulus package.


Update from Monday 16 March 2020.

Dear YWCA Team members,

Over the last few weeks, we have been keeping you updated on the evolving situation with COVID-19.

Our priority is to ensure your health and wellbeing. I know many of you are feeling concerned and worried as these events unfold. This is understandable and we are here to provide support. Our EAP service is available on 1300 361 008 and all calls are confidential.

We are working to fully understand COVID-19 and its potential impacts. The Executive Team are meeting a minimum of twice weekly to ensure we stay up to date with the current movements, answer key questions and pro-actively adjust our plans with wider team member input. We will continue to stay abreast of the situation and keep you updated. 

Today, we have taken additional measures for our safety:

  • Meetings are to take place virtually. Where meetings are required to be face to face, maintain a clear distance.
  • Reviewing Work From Home practices to enable greater flexibility.
  • All international and domestic company travel has been cancelled until further notice.

COVID-19 planning

We’re ensuring that we’re prepared to address the challenges of the evolving COVID-19 situation, while staying focused on the continued day to day support of our clients. We are following the Health Authorities advice as it changes, aligning our action plans and we will be keeping you updated.

We will be communicating with you via email and SMS, posting information to a dedicated COVID-19 page on our YWCA Australia website (this one!), and on the National Portal. In order to keep you updated, it’s important that we have your current contact details (mobile and email). Please visit ADP Payroll to ensure the information we have is correct.

We have created a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document, that can be downloaded from our website or for staff with access to SharePoint, via the National Portal. We will continue to update this regularly, so you have a single source of information. Please be aware that as the FAQ document will be updated regularly; if you download and print it, you need to ensure you are viewing the latest version.

Working or self-isolating during COVID-19

There are two areas that I would particularly ask you to focus on:

  • I’m aware that some of you may have concerns about using leave, not getting paid, or loss of shifts if you have to self-isolate. The most important thing is that you, your colleagues and our clients stay safe and well. If you are unwell, have been instructed to self-isolate, or you’ve been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, please do not come to work and follow advice from Health Authorities or your medical professional. You can talk to your manager who will liaise with your Director and People and Culture about your individual circumstances and the options available to support you.  We have provided leave options available in the FAQ document.
  • If you are well and have not been confirmed as being in close contact with a person with COVID-19, please continue coming to work until advised otherwise. Close contact is defined by Health Authorities as someone who has been face to face for at least 15 minutes or been in the same closed space for at least two hours, as someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 when that person was infectious. Even if you are at a location or have been on a flight where there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, this may not be classified as close contact and you are able to keep working unless you become unwell. Please be assured that your safety is our priority and we will continue to monitor the advice and any risks with continuing to come to work.  Where roles are able to work from home (WFH) we are encouraging them wherever possible.

If you have any concerns or further queries regarding this advice or need additional support at this time, please talk to your manager, our Health Safety & Wellbeing (HSW) Advisor Alison Tindale or a member of the People & Culture team.

Please remember, the best tool we have across the community to minimise the spread of the virus is frequent and thorough hand washing and other simple hygiene measures, so your help in following this and reminding others to do the same is really important.

The COVID-19 situation means we are dealing with continued uncertainty and disruption to our life at work and outside of work. I want to express my appreciation to all YWCA Australia team members, and thank you for your ongoing commitment to providing the highest quality support to our clients. Please take great care of yourself and others through this time.

Take care,

Michelle Phillips
CEO, YWCA Australia